Thursday, May 28, 2015

Excess

Since I have been off work my intent has been to get things organized around here.  Cleaning cabinets and closets is a lot like infrastructure projects.  So not sexy, but eventually a crumbling disaster that needs to be addressed before someone gets hurt by an avalanche of comforters and pillow shams from every decorating phase.

I took a detour to paint both bathrooms but have tackled something organizational every week.  It helps that I am in a ruthless mood and more than willing to let things go.  A few months from now I may be cursing that ruthlessness but for now I am going to embrace it.

My first project was the upstairs linen closet.  I pulled every single thing out of there.  Based only on the barely used hair products and makeup that were in abundance, I clearly suffer from self-esteem issues.  Is there no limit to the lipsticks, moisturizers and anti-frizz creams that a girl needs to enhance their look and boost confidence?  Not in my world.

I tackled the ironing basket next where I found a denim shirt that makes me look thinnish that I wore once. How could I have lost track of something as magical as that?  A favorite white shirt that I haven't been able to part with for years but that had a Minwax stain (colonial) on the sleeve that I never could get out. Two pillow forms from that week when I thought I'd go into the pillow making business.

The basement followed on the organizational agenda where I spent hours going through stacks of paper, stacks of scrapbooking supplies from when I was going to make a scrapbook for each kid but never did, and the remnants of a vintage business that was going to lead to my own retail store but never did.

I have made several trips to the thrift store to drop off stuffed garbage bags, filled shopping bags for shredding and pawned a few things off on my kids.

Today I went to the county hazardous waste disposal center after I filled the back of my car with the leftover paint that was going to get this house in a magazine some day but never did.  I didn't have as much as the car ahead of me that took a good ten minutes to unload, but it was an excess of every fleeting idea I've had when it comes to my home decor.   Pints, quarts and gallons of rusted paint cans from the last twenty years.

That wasn't even all of it.  There's more in the garage that I didn't get to because, after all, it's the garage and that's another day.  My basement now holds only the few paint options that are in the house currently. When I was starting the paint project on the bathrooms I made a run to the hardware store for ceiling paint.  I found two half-used cans in the midst of my paint purge.  Nothing like throwing away some more money when you're not making any.

I got to talking with the kid that unloaded my car of my paint hoard and he asked if I knew about the paint program. "Why no I don't," I said.  "We go through the paint and find the good usable stuff and mix it together. White, gray or beige are the color options. You can buy it in our shop and unlike here you don't need an appointment. It's indoor/outdoor paint and a great deal."

"Really?  So how much?"

"We sell it in five gallon containers for twenty five dollars."

"That is awesome.  Wow!  Paint is so expensive and that's such a great price.  I have been thinking about painting my fen......."

I snapped out of it, came to and came home.

Sheesh.

Enough, girlfriend.  Enough.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Law of Attraction

The Big Daddy and I have been in the market for a new lawn mower.  Correction: He wasn't until I convinced him that he was. 

It has rained almost every day this month - so much so that it feels like Seattle.  While this is great for the garden, it is not so great for lawn mowing if you have an old-school push mower.  The Big Daddy adopted this method a few years ago and would spend hours mowing.  A more generous person might think this is a quaint throwback to another era.  A wife thinks that a looney idea that has gone on too long is looney.

With all this rain and a very busy work schedule, my husband wasn't getting the grass cut very often. If there's anything I have plenty of these days it's time and I don't mind cutting the grass, but Mama wasn't about to use a push mower for that business.  I spent my childhood picking up sticks in a huge yard before my dad mowed.  After the middle school years with my faux boyfriend, Bud, down the street watching me, I considered it child abuse.

I suggested to my hoosband that we get something that was a little more current for his Modern Lady Wife.  "No gas," he said and so that's how we found ourselves at Lowe's on a Friday night looking at battery charged mowers.  Fortunately we weren't there long when we got a text from the neighbors saying that they were on the patio at the bar and grill by the house and so we skedaddled from that nonsense for some nachos and beer.

The next morning I recalled seeing a Black & Decker mower on Craigslist a few days earlier and gave the number a try.  It was still available and the woman selling it would show it to us at the office park she was renting to store her stuff until she moved.  Hence the sale of a mower - she was no longer going to have a lawn to maintain.

We found the place and went in.  It looked like a sale at a very bad thrift store.  There was crap everywhere.  On tables, on the floor, in boxes.  The side rooms, the back room, the back back room.  We found the mower and it looked brand new.  She had everything that came with it and had the blade sharpened.

Oh Craig!! This is sweet and I don't think she's going to try and kill us!!  

"Take a look at everything," she said.  "See if there's anything else you want."

I poked around.  There was an entire room that was baskets.  Not the vintage, sturdy kind but more of the cheap kind that came with cheesy silk flower arrangements.  "Oh there's plenty of great baskets in there," she said.  "Pick some out and we'll talk price."

While I was trying really hard to find something nice, Mark got on an exercise bike.  "Kath, look at this.  This would be great, don't you think?"  Before I could answer the seller started talking price with Mark.  "Oh yes, that's a very nice bike.  Unfortunately I have a condition that prevents me from sitting for long periods of time so I can't use it."

Please God do not allow her to explain this condition.

They talked money and then Mrs. Craigslist set her scope on me.  "Do you need landscaping lights?  A ceiling fan?  Motion sensor lights?  Still in the box.  I was going to put them outside the lab my husband and I own but never got around to it.

"Lab?  Do you have any old lab glass?  Cylinders, beakers, that kind of stuff?  I love that."

"Not here but I could get you some from our lab.  I'll give you a good price."

"Okay.  I'd love to look at that,  My husband works in a lab but he won't part with that stuff."

"Oh he does?  Well then I have just the thing," she said talking to Mark.  "How about this box of slides?  Look at these.  You could do something with this."

"Kath?"

"What is this on them," I inquired.

"Oh those are tissue samples."

Tissue samples.  And what does one do with glass slides with tissue samples on them?  Do you string them together with fishing line and and make wind chimes?  Do you get a tetanus shot before or after the fact?

On and on it went.  The sofa bed that the cat dug a hole in.  The bedroom set under mounds of blankets.  The wine glasses.  The dishes.  The Virgin Marys.  The tinsel.  The clay pots.  The microwave cart.

"No no no" I said over and over until I wanted to curl up in the hole that the cat made in the sofa in the back room.  Finally when the deal was cut on what we were getting neither of us had the correct change.  We were off by $5.00 and she wouldn't budge on price.

At that point I was ready to walk away but instead we got in the car and drove thru the McDonald's drive-in to break a twenty.

"Mark, do you believe in the law of attraction?" I asked as we drove there.  "Because if the universe works within that law then we are doomed.  We attract nut jobs all the time like this dotty old lady trying to unload her crap on us."

"She is quite the character," Mark said.

"That's being generous.  She's as dotty as they come and we're at her mercy for a lousy five bucks.  Now we have to go back in there and she's going to make us look in the Christmas room again with the cheap tinsel and awful silk flower arrangements.  How many times do we have to say no before we're set free with our lawn mower and stationary bike.  Ten times?  Twenty?  Thirty?  How much, Husband, before she wears us down and breaks us?"

"Stay strong," Husband advised.

We drove back, stayed outside and handed her the five dollars.  Mark got to talking to her about her lab and some of the things he's working on.

She has a PhD. in chemistry.  She's gotten $20,000,000.00 (that's million) in government contracts and told Mark how to work within the system to get funding for his lab.  They talked about mass spec and atomic force microscopy.  Clearly I was an uninformed outsider in this conversation.  After another fifteen minutes had gone by I said, "Okay, we'll let you get back to your garbage stuff.  We need to be on our way."

"Yeah, thanks," Mark said.  "Can't wait to use the lawn mower and Kath is really going to love the bike.  She's been wanting to exercise more."

Kath is really going to love the bike?  She's been wanting to exercise more?  What???  Kath who?

I was right all along.

There was somebody dotty in there and it turned out to be me.




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Robert

When my favorite job came to an abrupt end due to the store closing, I followed my manager and friend to a new place in the arts district of Kansas City.  Though only twenty minutes away, I had never been to this part of town and when I went for the interview it felt a wee bit like my working days in Chicago (minus a big lake).  A deal was struck and I accepted the job.

The area was known for its funky, bohemian vibe for artists of all types.  Somewhat neglected for years, it was experiencing a revival of sorts with lots of interest in that part of town and the old buildings.  The store was located on the street level of a unit that had many condos and lofts right above us.  Our space had previously been a home goods shop and the owner of the company I would work for would spend months putting her funky stamp on it to sell women's clothing.  Massive windows lined the street side which turned out to be a good thing.  Though the area was well-known for many things, it was not a shopping destination and hours would go by without a single customer.  Watching the comings and goings out the window helped with what at times was overwhelming boredom.

After a few months of us arriving a new tenant moved into the building.  He was from Kansas City but had lived in New York for many years.  He decided to move back to be closer to his family - particularly his father who was getting on in years. 

We got to know him well.  He didn't know where his mailbox was.  He seemed to always miss the UPS man who would drop his packages off with us.  He couldn't figure out where to park or how the movers should go about getting down the crowded one-way street..  The first few weeks of his new life seemed to be in constant confusion and he would pop in the store for help on a daily basis.

Nobody minded helping him at all.  He was gorgeous.  Fiftyish, silver haired, lean and blue-eyed, he walked up and down the sidewalk in the sweltering heat of August in his cargo shorts, tshirt and flip flops without so much as a drop of sweat.  If you didn't know better you'd think he walked off an ad for Ralph Lauren and his horse was tied up around the corner.

He was always grateful for the advice and help but never lingered.  He went about his day with a purpose and many a time I could see him out the window going to his yoga class with his mat tucked under his arm.  I would find out later from some customers that he was an artist.  When I waited on them they kept talking about the art classes they were taking every week from Robert.

"Our Robert," I asked.  "The Robert around the corner?"

"That's the one," they said.  "And isn't he gorgeous?"  We all laughed and I would find out from them that he also taught ballroom dancing in that loft of his and occasionally hosted art shows.

Our Robert was a true renaissance man.

One day Robert came in to ask me something, turned to leave and came back and said, "I think you have a real unique look with your hair and eyes.  Would you mind if I took some photos of you?"  If Our Cute Robert made my heart flutter when he asked if the UPS man had delivered anything, imagine what it did when he asked to photograph me.

"Sure," I said like this was a common request and something that would never come to fruition.  Little did I know that he'd appear ten minutes later with a camera.

"Just act normal, pretend I'm not here and I'll take the pictures."  How does one act normal when they have a camera a few inches from their face?  How does one do that when this sort of thing has never happened to them before?  I did my best which means I tried extra hard not to be a dork.

"I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with these yet but I'll let you know," he said as he left the store.
A few weeks later I left that job for something closer to the house and so the photos Robert took of me slipped my mind.  Occasionally I would stop in the store to see my old work friends but I never stayed long enough to catch up on everything in the neighborhood.

It was more than a year later that I recalled the photos and so the next time I was in the store I asked about Robert. "He's still in the building isn't he?  Does he pop in once in awhile?"

"Oh," my friend and manager said.  "You wouldn't have known.  Robert died a few months ago."

"Robert?  Robert died?"

"Yes.  We hadn't seen him in awhile and then this woman came in and introduced herself.  She was his sister.  He got pancreatic cancer and she took care of him until the end.  It all seemed so fast.  It was as if he was here one day and fine and then gone the next."

"Oh.  Oh.  I wasn't expecting you to say that.  I can't believe that.  Our perfectly good-looking and talented Robert?  That doesn't seem possible."   But it was true.  The silver-haired art teacher who was oblivious to the fan club all around him had moved on.  So had the customer that day who told me she was in his art class.

I left quickly after that.  I had to process this news I heard about Robert - as if sitting in my car in disbelief would make the outcome any different.

Once in awhile I wonder about the photos he took of me that day and if he waved his magic artist wand over them and made them into something special.  I'd like to think so but mostly I wonder what it would have been like to have him twirl you around that loft on 18th St.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Containing My Enthusiasm

There is a popular organization store opening up in Kansas City that have had the bees buzzing about for months. Though I have never shopped in this particular store, my sisters have and gushed over its variety of tools to help the cluttered get tidy.  "You have to go there," Ann said. "You'd love it."

So when my neighbor called me excited and breathless saying I HAD TO APPLY because the pay and benefits were so great, I did so without question. Utterly confused about which direction to turn, I take the advice of anyone and everyone with little thought.  Oh you heard McDonalds is hiring? Well, I have always loved their fries so I guess that's a good idea.  Off I go in my look-how-I've-got-it-together-clothes to wow another would-be boss for a job that upon thirty seconds of reflection I realize I don't even want.

Some people live and learn.  I leave learning to the scholars.

I filled out the application and submitted it before noon.  At 3:00 I got a call asking me to come in for a group interview and to read the email that would be coming to get my homework assignment.  An interview already?  They must think I'm special!  A homework assignment?  Huh.  I hope this is being compensated.  On a rainy Saturday morning I woke with the first thought of  the rest of my work life being, "I don't want to go".  If it weren't Saturday and I was home alone like I am the rest of the week, I would have lied and said I went and nobody would be the wiser. Mark and Will were there, however, and so I had to fake that this was all such a wonderful, exciting opportunity. You guysI can get shelving to get our spices organized!  At a discount!!  How awesome is that?  You know?  To organize all our spices??!!

Since the store isn't finished yet the interview was at a hotel connected to the convention center.  It was packed that Saturday morning with both a dance and barbershop quartet competition.

I'm not making that up.

I found the meeting room passing dozens of barbershop quartets along the way.  I was the second to last to arrive with the exception of Anne who was supposed to be sitting next to me but decided not to show.  I already wished I was Anne.

We did introductions.  I can't remember what I said.  Probably something hilarious, endearing and hire-worthy. The managers read off a script and then we watched a video.  After the video we were each asked what stood out to us. There were smiley responses that were very positive and it was clear that the desired response was to say that this company LOVES its employees which does seem to be true.  The first one to respond, though, stole the thunder so the four of us remaining had to blab it in a different way that didn't seem like we were repeating what she said.

I gave Manager's Pet the stinkeye for sitting at the end and pilfering all my good answers.

Next was a video about the organized way they unpack their truck and stock their store.  We have to unpack a truck?  What?  I've unpacked boxes of merchandise for years but a whole truck? Employees were literally running from the truck to the cart to load boxed merchandise to wheel out to the sales floor, all in record time.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, sisterCan you back that up that because it looks to me like employees are expected to run on this job?  

Next up on the hiring checklist was to share our homework.  We had to go on the website and choose an item we would buy and explain why.  My fellow interviewees each had a different item.  The gardening center for the garage that corrals all your lawn and garden items in one place.  A complete closet system. A folding bookshelf that is easy to fold and pack for the frequent mover. The laundry center to keep wash day tidy.

What did I choose?

I picked The Lidded Box as an organization tool to store our tax receipts since the brown paper bags didn't work out so well this year.  Letter-size.  Blue canvas with a faux leather handle.  Great reviews because ummm, it's a lidded box. What else but four stars could something get that a monkey could make in his sleep? Coming in at a whopping $14.95 I said I'd even spring for the document size as well at $16.95.

Nailed it.

Lastly we saw a video about their selling strategy that goes like this:  If a man is in the desert and has crawled his way to an oasis and asks for water what else do you think he could use.  Sunscreen? A cell phone?  A pillow to rest?  Food?  Yes, all of that.  Your customer is The Desert Man and you need to sell him everything he needs and not just what he asks for.

Just then you could hear a barbershop quartet outside the meeting room practicing I've Been Working on the Railroad which is what this interview was starting to feel like.

We talked about selling to The Desert People and I thought, "Boy that sure seems like a heartless thing to do to a man dying of thirst."  I didn't say that, though.  I repeated what Answerer #1 said with a big smile and warm eyes. Look at how engaging and friendly I am!!  I bet you can't even tell I'm making this shit up because I didn't even listen to the question!!!

A few days later I got an email.  Not the one I expected asking me to come in for a 2nd interview and maybe a management position, but the one that said they were going forward with some other candidates.

What?  I was insulted.  How could they not hire me?  Didn't they know how many times I sold dresses to women with the advice that a good pair of Spanx would make them look more like low-fat sausage in casing than a polska kielbasa?  I'm retail gold.

It didn't take me long to slide down into The Sads.  Where did I go wrong?  Was it the snorting when the barbershop quartet started singing?  Was it when I really looked at the full-blown poster of their store shelves and realized that crap has to be dusted every single day? Was it when I looked at Absent Anne's chair and longed to be her?  Or my empathy for The Desert People, who like Californians, really only need water?

I realized it was none of those things.  It was the homework assignment that I spent all of ten minutes on. Who hires somebody who takes great pride in touting the beauty and functionality of  the cheapest thing they sell when there's big money to be made on closets to stuff?

With no interviews on the horizon my days are even more free so I think I'll go to Target and buy a couple of those Lidded Monkey Made Boxes.  One for our tax receipts so that next year won't be such a hot mess......

And the other to contain my Dashed Dreams, Hopeless Job Prospects and Really Bad Ideas.